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Encouraging the Breastfeeding of Multiples†

by Frances Coulter Sturgess, R.D.
Reproduced with permission from the Twin Services' Reporter, Fall 1997 issue.

Breastfeeding is the recommended way to feed babies. Both singles, twins, and multiples benefit. While tiny preemies and other fragile infants may need to get pumped breast milk for a period of time, nursing is possible in many more situations than it is encouraged. It is both a natural process and a learned art. For many mothers, reassurance is all that is needed. Others need more concrete advice and support. Here are some suggestions for encouraging mothers to breastfeed their multiples.

Twins or more are successfully being breastfed by a great number and variety of women with different backgrounds and resources. Mothers take joy in knowing that the benefits of breastfeeding to herself and her babies will last a lifetime. Breastfeeding may also bring you some rest!Breastfeeding brings with it protection from illness which continues as long as you give them your milk. Nearly all babies will get sick at one time or another but breastfed babies usually have fewer and milder illnesses. This means less time transporting children, and waiting at the doctor and the ER, less time trying to force medicines down tiny throats, and walking sleepless crying babies. Premature or medically fragile babies can still benefit from your milk and you can generate a milk supply to anticipate their homecoming if you pump your milk for them to be fed in the hospital. Some parents find they feel less helpless when they are able to give this special part of their babies' care. † Breast milk is easily digested and babies have fewer reactions (allergies, diarrhea, asthma) to it than to substitutes. † Bonding and getting to know each baby as an individual can be easier because of time and hassle saved in getting ready to feed. Many women have found they can breastfeed the babies and be done in the time it takes to get formula warm and ready to feed a hungry baby. Two babies can breastfeed at the same time. The time you might spend mixing and warming and cleaning up after formula can be spent cuddling with your babies, especially convenient at night feedings! It's easier for one person to hold two infants to nurse than it is to hold two infants to bottlefeed properly. † Breastfeeding saves money on feeding that can be spent on other essentialsólike diaper service--even more significant with multiples! (One infant may consume $1000 a year if solely formula fed).

There are some predictable difficulties. You are probably going to be tired all the time in the first months, no matter how you feed, since parenting newborns is a 24 hour job, regardless of whether you have one or two or more. To help you feel less tired take time (a second, a minute) regularly to enjoy your children and family -- notice when they smile and look you in the eye! Juggling two babies to nurse at once can be tricky, but it gets easier with experience. There are several positions that can be used to manage this.

The supply of milk responds to demand--as one woman pointed out, "I have two breasts, so of course I can nurse twins." Women have also successfully nursed triplets and more. The more often infants nurse, the more signals a woman's body gets to produce more milk, which usually means more frequent nursings for a few days until the volume per nursing catches up with demand. Poor positioning can prevent the baby from truly efficient emptying of the breast. A breast that is not emptied starts producing less milk, which is why giving formula can interfere with breast milk supply if not done correctly. As with all breastfed infants, good positioning will also save you from the most common cause of sore nipples. Sore nipples are most often caused by not knowing what a good "latch" is--that is, how the position of baby's body affects mouth movements to get a good flow of milk through massage of the breast and areola rather than through suction. †

Bottlefeeding a breastfed infant is necessary when mother has to be separated from her infant, usually because of work, school, illness, or caring for others. Since we cannot predict which babies will decide artificial nipples are "the way to go" if given them early, the recommendation is to wait at least 3 weeks, preferably longer before introducing bottles to babies, so that the milk supply is in. † More working women are choosing to pump breast milk to maintain a significant milk supply. There are many grades and styles of pumps. Contact a Certified Lactation Consultant or Educator to help you evaluate which may work best for you. † Feeding a formula/breast milk substitute is an alternative if you do not pump. Expect your supply to diminish, though many women are able to maintain some supply for several months or more by nursing in the early morning and evening, and sometimes also at night, and leaving formula for when they are not home. Be aware also, that formula is not "a perfect food" and that caution is needed in how it is stored, mixed, and fed to the babies to minimize where possible, the health problems that have been associated with it. Some of these are due to the chemical nature of formula but some are more related to how it is given, including the ability of the caregiver to "detach" from the baby and leave babies alone, uncuddled, with propped bottles. †

This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Twin Services. For more information, email us at twinservices@juno.com or call us at 510-524-0863.

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The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice. Please consult with your health care advisor about specific questions or problems.



Pat Malmstrom
Twin Services Consulting
P.O. Box 10066, Berkeley, CA 94709
510.524.0863
twinservices@juno.com
http://www.twinservices.org


Copyright © Patricia Malmstrom 1978-2006.